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System Flaws
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One of the beauties of bridge bidding is the ability to have flexibility building system. There are always people out there looking to find the next best way to bid hands. Systems can cater to right siding contracts, to creating an effective conversation, or in the case of the system I am currently playing, to describe the eventual dummy without disclosing any information directly about the hand of the eventual declarer. All of these approaches have merits, and I could go on about the pros and cons, but this article is about that. In fact, this is about practical problems in playing high powered systems.

My partner, Jeffrey Tsang and myself were playing a high powered MOSCITO variant in the Canadian Flight B CNTC (Canadian National Team Championships.) Despite being a strong team and winning 6 of 11 matches in the round robin, we failed to qualify for the knockout phase, which started this morning. In fact, we were negative VPs. You'll likely figure out why very shortly. That said, Jeff and I are near the point of system gains, but the things I am listing are things I never thought of or considered

  

First problem with playing advanced systems is you have to give a road-map of how to beat you. This tournament requires pre-alerting any midchart convention you play (I agree with this concept.) It also requires you to submit a defense to anything you play online and bring it to the table (I don't agree with this because the method must be pre-alerted and it should be up to the opps to prepare a defense, at least in my opinion. I would think it is very fair for my opponents to bring a written defense to our table; I can't expect my opponents to memorize a defense for literally 1 round.) This can be annoying, and I had opponents get angry over the stupidest things, from the format of our pre-alerts to the title of the defense (yes, at times it was that petty.) We even had opps who commented that our system "is not bridge." This sets a bad atmosphere immediately at the table , which leads to problems later and makes the event less enjoyable. For the record, this isn't everybody, or even most people. It just makes some people uncomfortable, and oftentimes those memories stick a little bit more.

 

The second problem is time. Most events are timed, this one being ten boards a round, seven minutes per board. My partner isn't a particularly fast player as it is, and I was pretty much responsible for picking up the pace for our partnership. To protect against a slam hand, I needed to keep us to about 5 minutes a board, while not rushing our opponents. This clearly was difficult, and it certainly effected my play. Amplify that by the fact I need to write down every bid I make (we are behind screens) and play/defense, you can see how I would be under a lot of time pressure. This is something I have to deal with, or I get hit with a time penalty.

This hand here illustrates the problem with advanced systems (and system builders) very nicely. Take a look at this hand.

West
1052
QJ762
86532
North
AJ963
1093
KJ762
East
74
K84
K974
9843
South
KQ8
A5
AQJ10
AQ105
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
5
P
5N
P
7
P
P
P
D
11
7 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

We were the only pair in room to get to 7. 7 is an amazing contract, a 90+percent grand that even regular Bridge Winners contributor Benoit Lessard missed it. Our opps bid the unmakeable 7. Jeff was patting me on the back (I was South) and patting himself on the back for building a system that can bid it. To make it better, it was literally the last board of night. It took us 20 minutes to bid.

 However, if you look more closely you realize that the high powered system had very little to do with it. Forget the 8+round auction for a second, and look at South's hand. What do I really need to know?

1. I need to know partner is 5-5. In fact, I can justify 7C if partner is 6-4 as well.

2. I need partner to hold the king of clubs and the ace of spades.

3. I need to know partner is short in diamonds.

So despite all the information I can retrieve, I need three pieces to bid 7. The biggest problem in practice is being able to visualize the dummy reversal for 6 clubs, 5 spades and both red aces. I also cannot get lulled into playing spades. This is hardly a system win, but it will be chalked up as one despite the reality. My judgment against the field was simply superior, because I could see trick 13. Many pairs can show the information required to get to 7. Not all of them for sure, but most of the top contenders have the tools available.

 

The final drawback is one we have all heard: forgetting system. Between the two of us, we probably forgot is misinterpreted system 15 different times, so every time we won 12 we gave back 15. This is unacceptable, and it loses matches. I distinctly remember one hand where went from winning fifteen to losing 15. It was dreadful.

 

All in all, this was an important step for Jeff and I. I learned what I need to do in the future, and I had fun. Hopefully I can play some more events as the week goes on.

  

 

 

 

 

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